Soil and Cellar

Growing and preserving foods in Seattle


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Raised beds – At last!

D and I have wanted raised beds since we started our garden 7 years ago, but we aren’t the best project people. But this winter we finally finished! We already have some plants growing, I even started some from seed!

Here’s a sort of photo essay of the building of our raised beds. We went by these instructions from Sunset. It was a really fun project, and normally shouldn’t take more than a weekend. We just got it in our heads that it would be a lot harder than it turned out to be, I think.

We built the raised beds in our garage. Teamwork, yeah!

We built the raised beds in our garage. Teamwork, yeah! D was excited to have a reason to buy a impact driver, but I think a normal drill would be just fine.

Here is the first one finished: they are both 4'x6' and are about a foot tall.

Here is the first one finished: they are both 4’x6′ and are about a foot tall.

The first raised bed installed. It took a lot of prep to get the weeds out of the soil first, so next we...

The first raised bed installed. It took a lot of prep to get the weeds out of the soil first, so after leveling the raised beds we added cardboard.

Checking to see it is level. I will admit that they seem to have settled in parts, but not too much.

Checking to see it is level. I will admit that they seem to have settled in parts, but not too much.

... added cardboard to the bottom of the raised bed, before adding soil. The hope is that this will help suppress weeds. We have morning glory in this part of the garden pretty bad.

Here we added cardboard to the bottom of the raised bed, before adding soil. This should help suppress weeds. We have morning glory in this part of the garden, it’s basically impossible to stop, the best hope is to try to slow it down.

Finally, we had soil delivered. The only access is a walk-through gate in the fence, so we had to block the alley while we brought in wheelbarrow loads.

Finally, we had soil delivered. The only access is a walk-through gate in the fence, so we had to block the alley while we brought in wheelbarrow loads.

I’ve planted a garden of basics this first year – cucumbers, tomatoes, scallions, carrots, zucchini, beans, and herbs. In one bed we direct sowed seeds, the other we planted starts. Wish us luck!


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January in the Garden

This isn’t actually about what’s going on in the garden NOW, because that’s a whole lotta nothing. In keeping with my recap/resolutions last week, I’m going to run down the couple of fun things going on in our garden in the last year.

All in all, it was a low key year in the garden. My weekends weren’t spent very productively. But we spent plenty of time hanging out outside, having bbqs and dining with friends.

Thimbleberries on the shrub, in various stages of ripening. You can also see how soft and large these leaves are (I have heard them called - jokingly? - "nature's toilet paper.")

Thimbleberries on the shrub, in various stages of ripening. You can also see how soft and large these leaves are (I have heard them called – jokingly? – “nature’s toilet paper.”)

Thimbleberries galore! Thimbleberry – Rubus parviflorus – is a Northwest native shrub with sweet berries. I picked these as they ripened in July – about a handful a day – and froze them. I ended up with about a cup of frozen berries after a couple weeks. They’re so small, I couldn’t think of the best way to use them so I just ate them. This year I’ll make a plan. Sometimes it takes me a couple years to figure out how to harvest and use edibles.

Desert King figs are green with pink centers. This is the type that does the best in Seattle.

Desert King figs are green with pink centers. This is the type that does the best in Seattle.

We got our first figs off the tree! I am super proud of that. They were delicious! I hope for way more this year, and soon I’ll have enough to make fig jam. Fingers crossed! No fruit on the prune yet, but we’re hopeful for this year.

Our raised beds installed. Here we are checking the level, and adding cardboard at the bottom. We have tons of morning glory in this part of the yard, so we wanted to beat it back as much as possible.

Our raised beds installed. Here we are checking the level, and adding cardboard at the bottom. We have tons of morning glory in this part of the yard, so we wanted to beat it back as much as possible.

Also, we finally built our raised beds! They are installed, and just need soil and we’ll be ready to go this spring. We better get started soon, President’s Day is around the corner.

Saffron crocus - Crocus sativus - flower showing off some of its potential.

Saffron crocus – Crocus sativus – flower showing off some of its potential.

And saving the best for last. The Crocus sativus bloomed and gave us saffron again this year. Last year, I picked saffron but didn’t get to use any of it. I tried to shield you from this painful truth (ie, was embarrassed)… it molded! I thought it was totally dried by the time I stored it, but there was still enough moisture and it went bad. This year I am keeping it in an open container, so as not to trap any moisture. Now I just need to use it. Soon, soon… I have about 10 strands. Does anyone have any ideas for how to use it?

Check back this spring, I hope to have a lot more to report!